The Missing Barbegazi

Jolly Fish Pr. Nov. 2019. 224p. pap. $11.99. ISBN 9781631633775.
Gr 2-5–Gawion is a “barbegazi”—one of a clan of supposedly-extinct small bearded elves. When his younger sister Maeg disappears mysteriously near the base of the Alps, Gawion believes she was taken by elf-hunters and becomes desperate to find her. Elsewhere, after losing her beloved Opa, Tessa is determined to prove that her grandfather’s crazy tales about the barbegazi are true. During her search, Tessa ventures “off-piste” and becomes trapped in an underground snow cavern, and it is Gawion who saves her. The unlikely duo realize they may be able to help each other. Here is a fast-paced middle-grade fantasy, set amongst a backdrop of youth competitive skiing, with love for family as its core theme. The “barbegazi” myth will appeal to a younger audience (the creatures come off like snowy trolls with huge feet whose magic lies in their beards) yet the complexity of the language, the unique setting in Austria, and a surprise plot twist near the end demand a more mature reading level.
VERDICT Give to younger readers with a higher-than-average reading level who want a magical tale without too much “mature” content.

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